While recently working with a client we had a very interesting discussion about how, in his personal opinion, his workplace required him to “blend In” in order to truly be successful! I asked him what made him believe this to be true? He shared with me that everyone, men and women, pretty much wore the same “uniform” of khaki pants and button down shirts …except on Friday’s of course where people MIGHT feel comfortable wearing jeans and a collared shirt that typically had a golf club insignia on it.
I asked him if he played golf. He didn’t.
“Golf is just…so… BORING! And I AM NOT Boring!” he said.
“Do you want to be promoted?” I asked. “Yes, very much so!” he quickly responded with lots of energy and what I construed as an underlying sense of urgency. “Why?” I asked. He paused. “Because I deserve it! …and that’s the next step!” he said adamantly.
Let me pause here for a moment. There are a few things happening here that I have pondered often in my career as an HR Professional and as a career girl myself.
Do I conform in order to better position myself for recognition and promotion? Or do I adamantly hold onto my individualism, even if it is extremely unique, and trust my success will be enough for the next step in my career? I have actually struggled with this. And I can share many an example where I did both at different times in my career!
Even when I quit the corporate world 6 1/2 years ago, it took me over a year before I stopped what I considered generically “dressing professionally” just in case I ran into someone who might want to hire me! Think about that for a minute.
So why did I believe this was necessary? Let’s dissect my thinking. If my thought was, “If I don’t look professional no one would want to hire me” then it makes sense that I would be compelled to “dress professionally” to avoid that fear? Notice the emotion involved hear…FEAR.
My client’s thought was, “If I don’t blend in and conform I won’t get promoted.” So, was his “FEAR” not being promoted? Maybe. Let’s go even deeper. What if below that thought was, “If I don’t get promoted, I won’t be seen as successful.” Okay, good. Go a little further. “If I am not seen as successful, people will be judge me.” Now we’re really getting somewhere. More dialogue and then one more step. What are you afraid of?
“I guess I am afraid of what people will think of me.”
AHA!! Root Cause! Alert The Media!
My client began to practice observing his concerns and efforts at his job very differently. He started asking himself more questions! He went back to what truly mattered to him and what lifestyle he wanted. “What do you really want?” I asked. “I really don’t want to play golf, that’s for sure!” He laughed as he replied.
Having said ALL OF THAT…
(Good stuff, right? by the way, how often do you dissect your behavior and thinking this way? Try it. You might like it!)
What if your goal really DOES require that you conform, blend and adapt to the crowd around you? What if you WANT to conform? Then what?
This IS the real question! To Blend or Not To Blend…
Am I Blending intentionally? For what purpose? To avoid being disliked? Or to play the game in order to obtain something important to me? Am I able to blend WITHOUT violating my values and my identity? Can I choose from a place of knowing or am I choosing from a place of FEAR?
How about this as an approach to try: What if you CONSCIOUSLY CHOSE to play the corporate game in order to move toward something you wanted…like a promotion? Can you recognize that you are making this CHOICE intentionally? Does the CHOICE feel right? Or does it feel forced? If you are at CHOICE then it should be easy and fulfilling, if you are not at choice it will be difficult and frustrating.
This doesn’t just apply at work. Think about how you conform or teach conformity at home.
My youngest two daughter’s start school this coming week. I hesitated to purchase too many back to school clothes and encouraged my youngest the other day to wait and see what the trends are when she gets to school next week. She looked at me shocked! “Mom! What are you saying, do you want me to only buy what everyone else is wearing?!” I was taken back…“Wait, NO! I was just saying sometimes we buy things and then they aren’t what you want after seeing your friends …well…” I trailed off as this began to sound counter to the way I raised these beautiful individual beings!
What exactly was my thought here? Where had that come from? My root reason was most likely around the dollars invested and past experiences with “tweens” changing their minds frequently after expensive “gotta have them” shoes were purchased. Trying to save money here, y’all! (ooooh, scarcity mentality! oops…)
I recognize now that my daughter’s reaction was around her confusion with my message – she has only known “be yourself” and “be individual”…don’t be an unconcious conformist.
Mainly because we had brainwashed her to think this way and now,
“What the heck is Mom talking about?!? I am sooo confused!”
But, now that I stand back again, and ponder the question “To Blend or Not To Blend?” Well, what is wrong with wanting the latest trend or
liking something everyone else likes, too?
Remember, at the end of the day,
we are the only ones who can make anything mean anything.
REPEAT AFTER ME: “I am the only one who can make anything mean anything!”
This means blending or not blending just do it consciously! Be at choice! Be Awesome
Whatever you do, blending or not blending, just do it like you mean it!
And PLEASE PLEASE Don’t Be Boring! Be You! Which is automatically AWESOME!
Oh, and here’s a fun video to keep you motivated from Kid President:
With gratitude from your non-boring awesome friend,